Health and lives at stake without water, food and other basics Tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees in South Sudan urgently need humanitarian aid to be scaled up in a brief window of opportunity that is rapidly closing before the rainy season starts, warns Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Since last November, 80,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile State have sought shelter in two camps located in a remote and barren region of South Sudan where humanitarians confront massive logistic challenges to access and assist refugees. Newly arriving refugees tell of ongoing bombing and fighting in Sudan’s Blue Nile State. In Doro and Jamam refugee camps, they have sought a safer place but they have found a harsh environment where their ability to survive is stretched to the breaking point.
“These refugees are left almost completely reliant on humanitarian assistance because this area has scarce water and food,” says Julien Matter, MSF’s emergency coordinator. ”The sheer numbers of refugees fleeing here has grown to far beyond anything anyone anticipated — and in such a remote place, providing the bare survival essentials now, and through the coming rainy season, will be a serious challenge.” When rains start in late April, the region will become gradually ever more inaccessible, likely becoming a vast swamp with small islands of dry ground. All organizations providing assistance in the camps must focus on an emergency push during the coming weeks to ensure that refugees can survive the coming months. Even now, serious gaps in assistance mean that people’s most basic needs are not yet adequately covered. Less than eight litres of clean water per person per day is being provided, far below the recommended minimum standards for refugee camps of 15 to 20 litres per day. In its clinics MSF witnesses the direct consequences of the lack of water, with cases of diarrhea rising continuously, now constituting one in four of all consultations. With the refugees’ lives and health at stake, such essentials as water, food, household items and shelter must urgently be assured before the rains start. While many of its staff concentrate on medical aid, MSF is also engaged in emergency water provision, pumping, treating and distributing around 130,000 litres of water daily. MSF has started to extend its water supply system to increase coverage, but cannot meet all the current water needs and the coming challenges in these camps. Other organizations working in this field must urgently accelerate their activities before the rains start.
Since November last year, MSF has been running a substantial emergency response, focusing on providing medical care in the camps and in mobile clinics to villages along the border withSudanwhere several thousand more refugees are gathered. Fifty international staff work on the ground together with 85 locally recruited staff, and draw on 180 tonnes of medical, logistical and water-provision kit sent to the camps by air, river and road. In its field hospitals in the camps MSF is providing out-patient consultations, in-patient medical care for seriously sick patients, therapeutic feeding and maternal health services. More than 2,500 consultations are performed each week, and the team has vaccinated almost 30,000 children against measles. While donors and aid organizations are prioritizing development and longer-term assistance, emergency-response capacity is still extremely important in the newly independent South Sudan. This refugee crisis highlights the continued and urgent need for donors and key aid organizations to maintain an effective emergency-response capacity to respond to the multiple acute crises that could erupt along the Sudan -South Sudan border or elsewhere in the country. In the camps at Doro and Jamam only an emergency approach to provide urgently needed aid during the current window of opportunity can ensure the health and dignity of these refugees seeking shelter from violence.
A Sudanese woman living in Jamam refugee camp : " It took us over two weeks to escape. People were moving slowly, by day and night. We drank water from the rivers." Read more... Sudanese refugee working as a nurse in the MSF field hospital : "For the refugees living all around me in Doro, there is not enough water for everyone." Read more... Amani brought her daughter Harrap to the MSF field hospital in Jamam for treatment : “ I know this soil, and when the rains come this will be a swamp, this will be filled with water… this is a bad place." Read more...